Thursday, November 10, 2011

Mommy gets her groove back, or The Conductor

Mommy laced up her writer/performer shoes recently. After a few, baby filled years off the "scene," mommy was anxious about performing/reading a new piece in a cool show called Salonathon. Mommy read the line up days before and noticed she was on the same bill as a Pushcart prize nominee, a Neo Futurist, and a critically acclaimed stand up comic. Shit. 

Mommy, Daddy said, You are going. That's the end of it.

It turned out to be awesome. The entire show was incredible and Mommy was not bad either. Daddy sat at the bar, looking handsome in his best black cowboy shirt and drinking local draft beers. 

Here is what Mommy read:

If you’ve been on the CTA recently, you’ve probably seen my son. Small, blond, suspect look on his face. He’s either clinging to me or staring at you because you are smoking, eating or soliciting. But, He might be kneeling at a window seat, twitching from head to toe with happiness at being on the train and being able to recognize the letters of his favorite signs:

A, “a—a—Addison”, mommy! “Puh, puh--Paulina!  Ssssss-Southport!

The team of specialists at his school  who diagnosed his autism call this twitching behavior “flapping.” And yeah, that’s what it looks like. But my husband and I call it sparkling.  His fingers dance up next to his ears and he jumps up and down. If he’s excited and happy about something, then he sparkles!

Also, it sounds better than flapping.

But if you see him and he’s not sparkling, chances are that you have called attention to yourself because you are leaning against the doors and that is not okay on the CTA. Or perhaps you are hogging a seat with your gigantic bag. Or maybe, and worst of all, you are eating a cupcake in plain sight of everyone, including a tired hungry rule abiding 5 year old.

“Mommy! My lil buddy might say, “Why does she have a cupcake? Why mommy? The man said no eating! You cannot eat cupcakes on the cta. Right, mommy? Right?”

Though he doesn’t like to talk to everyone, he has no problem talking to me, in front of everyone.

“I don’t know, Lil Buddy.”

“But the man says no eating, smoking or soliciting. “

“I know, honey.”

“ And she is eating. She is eating a cupcake”

“And that is not nice!

My strategy at these moments is to come up with something wonderful that will make him sparkle. I might say, “Look there’s an airplane!  Or “Look, it’s Ellies’ building,” because Lil Buddy’s friend Ellie lives in the Hancock building and it’s hard to miss it or I might say “Hey, there’s the river!” because the river is just plain cool and on a sunny day, guess what, it sparkles!

            We live near the Kedzie stop on the Brown Line, and ever since he could sit forward facing in a car seat, Lil Buddy has been mesmerized by the CTA. He knows that it ends at Kimball and travels as far as the Loop.  But  The Brown Line is especially great because it passes right across the street, in front of your very eyes. And there is nothing more magical to Lil Buddy than a good old fashioned rail road crossing, complete with looming striped gate and giant clanking bell sound.

            When were at home and he’s in his room playing with his Thomas trains, I’ll hear him say things like, “Kedzie is next. Doors open on the left at Kedzie. Smoking, Eating, and Delivering are prohibbed on CTA beehickles. Priority Seating is sirtended for the elderly and passengers with disavilities.” He doesn’t get the words exactly right, but there is no doubt that this kid loves mass transit.

One day Last summer we were sitting in a coffee shop in Edgewater while the car was getting oiled and cleaned at the Toyota dealership.

“Mommy!” said Lil Buddy, looking up from a cookie, “Look that’s the CTA!”

“It sure is honey!”  I said. “that’s the Red Line.”

“oooh, the red line,.”

We watched the red line come and go. Lil Buddy sparkled.

“Mommy,” he said, “Does the red line go to Kimball or the loop?”

“It goes to Ninety fifth St.”

“Ninety-fifth. Ninety fifth. Ninety fifth. How do you spell Ninety Fifth?”

“Hey kiddo, “ I said, “do you want to ride the red line? We can go to Argyle.”

“Um, okay, yes!” said Lil Buddy.

So we walked to the Bryn Mawr platform, rode the escalator and waited.

Lil Buddy hopped up and down.

“We will see gates and flashing lights, Mommy?”

“Um, No honey. Not on the red line.”

“yes flashing lights! Yes”

“Well, Lil Buddy, the red line only goes up high or underground. It doesn’t go on the street like at Kedzie.”

“It does have flashing lights mommy! It does, it does.”

“Lil buddy. It doesn’t. It only does up high or underground, not on the street.”

“Yes flashing lights mommy! Okay? Okay? Okay mommy?”

“okay,” I said, lying through my teeth.

Lil Buddy sparkled as he looked out the window across the east side of the tracks. There were rooftops and parking lots and alleys but no flashing lights.

“where are they, mommy? Where are the lights?”

When we got out at Argyle, Lil buddy looked around.

“I don’t see them,” he said. “let’s take the escalator!.

Out on the street we saw barbecue chickens, noodle shops, and gift stores with waving cats  but no flashing lights.

“Hey,” I said, “Lets get a lucky cat!”


“Okay”, I said. And I silently reminded myself to stay calm. “let’s walk around the block ,” I offered.

“no, Mommy! No, no, no!”

“Well, what would you like to do?” I said.

“I-WANT --TO –SEE—FLASH-- ING --LIGHTS!” He said, his tiny voice seething with anger.  “SEE Lights NOW!”

 I closed my eyes for 10 seconds and wished really hard. Oh God, please! Please please please let there be a giant railroad crossing with a big Yellow and black sign and a gleaming red  and white striped gate and giant fucking clanging bells and flashing lights when I open my eyes. Oh my god, please.

But I opened my eyes to see only my small, angry child foaming at the mouth with disappointment. Lil Buddy’s face was red and streaked with tears.

“mama!!!!” he cried.

“Baby,” I said, bending down to stroke his arms and try and calm him down. “It’s okay.”

“Noooooo!” he cried out, miserable, sounding as if someone, maybe me, had just hit him. Passersby on the street looked around. They stared. They thought about calling DCFS.

“Sweet pea,” I said, “let’s take a balloon breath. Come on! In…and out…and in….”

“No……….Maaa…..maaa “(with heaving breath sounds)

“Okay, I’m going to count to five and then..”


“Okay, honey, tell me…do you feel annoyed right now? Or is it more like a number 5 frustrated? Or are you all the way up to a ten and filled with rage?”

“(hyperventilating) Rage!!!!”

He flailed his arms enough to bat my hands away. He stomped up and down and began to swat at me! “Flashing lights! Flashing lights!”

Out of nowhere, a very fit mommy or nanny came around the corner pushing a fancy double stroller. Her angelic twins eyed my flailing, crying son as he hit and scratched me.

“Not nice,” said one of the little angels. Fit mommy just stared with judgement in her eyes.

“Lil Buddy, Please, “ I said, “You have got to calm down. They just don’t have flashing lights here. Okay?”

He sobbed and sobbed and collapsed in a heap. I carefully wrapped my arms around him.

“Why there’s no lights, mama?”

“Because honey, look, all the train platforms are up high.” He looked up and cried harder.

I rubbed his back, he put his wet face on my knee. We sat  in front of a windown filled with lanterns and lucky cats.

“Hey kiddo, should we go get the car and go home?”

“Yeah.” He said, and then he perked up and said “What’s that?”

“Whats what? I asked

“That!!! That that that that!” He pointed violently in front of our faces.

“That’s the Broadway bus, honey. Number 36.”

He looked dreamily at the giant, hulking city bus, watching those magnificent doors open and shut.

“Do you want to take the bus back?” I said.

“Yeah!” said Lil Buddy.

So we waited for the Broadway bus, and luckily, another one came quickly.

Lil Buddy snuggled up next to me on a seat and looked out the window. He got his sparkles back, watching everyone come and go.

“Mommy! What comes after Argyle?”


“after that?”


“after that ?”


And on and on we went, to the delight or dismay of our fellow passengers. We stopped naming stops at 35St. cause Mommy couldn’t remember anymore.

On the way home, in the car, Lil Buddy talked non stop about the trains. How some have crossing gates and lights and some do not. Some are down low, and some are up high. Some go underground. We passed as many red line stops as we could, taking a close look at their features.

“nope!’ he would say happily, “No flashing lights!”

At home as I fed Lil Buddy’s baby sister and unloaded the dishwasher, I listened to him playing with his trains in his room. I wondered what red line announcement he would zero in on. Or which station names he would make up. But this is what I heard:

“Next stop Argyle! Route 36 to Broadway/Halsted. “    pshhhhhhhhh (he made the sound of the doors opening)

“please move to the back”

Your safety is important.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Halloween Guilt

Mommy raced to get the kids home after work. After finishing up some grading and organizing at school, going to the bank to withdraw babysitter money, and going through a drive through for some much needed caffeine, Mommy finally reached Lil Buddy at 4:30. She was off schedule. She was supposed to get him at 4, then Sweet Potata at 4:15, so they could be home by 4:40, out the door for trick or treating at 4:50. Her plan was to walk two blocks into the adjoining, really nice neighborhood; the one with the pretty houses. The one with no graffiti. The one with a Starbucks and a college campus. That’s where they would trick or treat. Just 5 or 6 houses until Lil Buddy grew tired. Maybe more. It would be perfect.

But Mommy was really late. She got Lil Buddy at 4:30, then Sweet Potata at 4:45. And Sweet Potata needed extra time to get her coat and shoes on over her chubby ladybug costume. Her striped black and red legs kicked wildly as mommy carried her to the car. She squealed with delight. Mommy looked down at Lil Buddy and a tiny train conductor smiled up at her “Happy Halloween Mommy,” he said. With a CTA patch on his shoulder and hat, and a mass transit map in his pocket, he looked like a very small city official. Mommy wanted to scoop him up too.

Lil Buddy turned in circles on the lawn as Mommy buckled Sweet Potata into her car seat. The seat belt was tight over the lady bug stuffing. Sweet Potata didn’t complain though, she just looked at mommy with big eyes.

In the car, Lil Buddy said, “I’m tired. I wanna go home.”

“But we’re gonna go trick or treating,” said Mommy. “You want to go get candy and treats,right?

“Umm, okay,” said Lil Buddy. Mommy was a little surprised, but then again, this was the time of day that they usually headed home. Lil buddy would take off his shoes and then curl up on the couch. He was exhausted by 5 everyday.

Mommy cringed with working mom guilt. She should have just left school at 3, gone right to Lil Buddy, and then Sweet Potata. Everyone would be more awake, but Sweet Potata would have had to wait until later for dinner. She held onto hope that the kids would make it through a few houses. This was the first official year that Mommy took Lil Buddy trick or treating. In the past, they went to Lincoln Square for a Halloween party and trick or treating on the Saturday close to Halloween. That was enough. But Lil Buddy was 5, and Mommy was certain that he should officially trick or treat on Halloween night. Mommy was determined to make that happen, even after a very long day at work.

Mommy parked, and then took her “minute.” She always took a minute or two to gather herself and find the energy to haul the kids and all of their collective stuff out of the car. To decide what should stay. This time, though, her minute was only 30 seconds. She opened the back door and unwrapped and pulled Sweet Potata from her seat. She held her 20 pound Sweet Potata on her left side and opened the passenger door with her right. She reached down and grabbed her bag and through it over the right shoulder. She closed the door and opened Lil Buddy’s door. She carefully bent down with baby and bag, to un latch his seat belt. She helped Lil Buddy out with her free right hand. She watched for cars with one finger on Lil Buddy’s hood. She closed the door. The whole gang carefully crossed the street and went into the house.

Mommy put bags down, and passed the baby into another hand as she unlocked doors and mailboxes. Mommy’s legs burned as she carried baby and bags up to the second floor. Inside the door, Lil Buddy took off his shoes and coat and lay on the couch. Mommy wanted to do that too.

“No, honey,” said Mommy, “We are going out, remember? Trick or Treating!”

“Rookayyyyyy,” said Lil Buddy.

Mommy summoned her last energy reserve to unload stuff, bundle herself and the kids for the cold, and find Lil buddy’s plastic pumpkin. She saved some energy for the stroller.

Back at the car, Mommy did what she thought would be her final heroic physical act of the day. She unlocked the trunk and pulled the giant Jeep “beep beep” stroller from the car, with Sweet Potata in her other arm. The she unlatched it so it could unfold by doing this graceful side bending/pair skating move with the baby. She squatted with baby and adjusted the recline on the seat. Sweet potato squealed with happiness. Thank goodness she loved riding in the beep beep. Mommy’s left shoulder was about to go numb. She plopped Sweet potato in, strapped her down, blanketed her feet, and put the steering wheel attachment on so she could push buttons and make music. She popped the front wheel on to the lawn and then heaved the whole thing up to the side walk where Lil Buddy was waiting.

“I’m sooo tired!” he said.

“Oh honey!” said Mommy, “this is going to be fun! Think of all the candy you’ll collect!”

“I don’t want candy, Mommy! Just treats.”

“umm, okay.” And they headed down the block, turning left to cut across to the college campus and take a short cut to the Nice Neighborhood.

“My tummy hurts my tummy hurts, my tummy hurts,” Lil Buddy cried out. He clutched his tummy and bent forward. He did his fake whimper. Mommy new that despite the amped drama, he either did have a hurt tummy, or he was just really really tired. Mommy was way off schedule and Lil Buddy was way past his tired point. She cringed with guilt again.

“Do you need a little snack?” asked Mommy, pulling  a bag of bunny grahams from her pocket.

“no!” said Lil Buddy. But Sweet Potata reached for them so Mommy gave her a few.

“Do you need to go potty?”

“No! my tummy hurts!”

“What do you want to do honey?”

“I want to go home and rest on the couch.”

“Are you sure? You don’t want to trick or treat?”

“No! Rest on the couch!”


“Okay,” said Mommy. “let’s go.” And she steered the beep beep back toward home. The walk was long! Lil Buddy was miserable. “Roh!” he moaned.

She rubbed his back with her free hand. “Almost there,” she said.

As they rounded the corner, she realized she didn’t have a plan for the stroller. Daddy was supposed to meet them while they were out, but he wouldn’t be home just yet. She was not about to fold the stroller and put it back in the car with one hand. She decided to bring it in the front door.

She let Lil Buddy in, then pulled Sweet potato out. Baby was miserable that her ride was over so soon. She yelped and yelped.

She moved the stroller to the side and quickly took the kids up to their apartment. She let them in. She put Sweet Potata down on the floor and took off her coat and hat. She helped lil buddy out of his coat and hat and shoes and he went straight to his bed.

“do you want water? Some crackers?”

“no, no, no. I want to rest,” he said. Mommy shut the door and ran down the stairs to the stroller. She looked at it and thought for a moment. Then she dragged that thing up two flights of stairs to the apartment. She wheeled it in and Sweet Potata squealed. She picked her up and put her back in it. Sweet Potata played with the steering wheel and buttons. She was delighted. Mommy wheeled her into the kitchen and started dinner.

At this point, she hoped Lil Buddy would just fall asleep from his long day. Sure enough he did.

Mommy felt some guilt but she knew that Lil Buddy had all the candy and fun he needed on Halloween. Next year she would get it right.

She turned on the oven and then reached for her phone to text Daddy:

Plz gt wine

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Sweet Potata Lexicon

New words that Sweet Potata loves:

"yoggie" (doggie)
"ditty"   (kitty)
"Uh-Oh!"   (this was her first!)
"cheese stick"

short and sweet, just like sweet potata herself

Monday, October 10, 2011

Mommy goes to Hot Yoga

Mommy had a one week free pass at one of those hot yoga chains that seemed to be popping up everywhere. Mommy, badly in need of a body overhaul since the end of her breastfeeding days, was a serial yoga deal finder. Having seen the one week free coupon advertised at the city wide yoga chain, Mommy decided once and for all to give it a go.

Mommy had set out to a nearby suburb on a thursday evening for the first class. It wasn't half bad. Mommy was no stranger to hot yoga. Before lil buddy was even a twinkle in her eye, Mommy was a regular Bikram practitioner. That was in her post dancing days, when she still "took class" in Advanced Modern from a local teacher of Modern dance awesomeness. Modern dance had been Mommy's sport once. Mommy's sporting life slowly segued into yoga in the year or two before Lil Buddy came along. That was okay. Mommy really liked Yoga. She could do it for the rest of her life, she figured. It made her trick ankle and sparkly big toe (gifts from her years as a professional dancer) feel normal. It kept her flexible. Maybe she couldn't balance on her arms but she could stick her foot over her head and that felt great. Mommy's sport of choice.

Mommy also loved vinyasa yoga, hot and otherwise. She liked to stretch out in a big downward dog, hang upside down and sideways in half moon, open up her hips in triangle. 20 pounds and two babies later, Mommy struggled with yoga more but she could still rock a triangle.

Mommy had been doing yoga over the summer, since the onset of the post nursing weight. She was getting her flexibility back and feeling okay. Now it was time to try the hot stuff. It was time to find a free class deal so the citywide hot yoga chain would have to do.

So Mommy went to the suburban class. Please, she thought, don't be filled with skinny people in Lululemon tank tops. It was. Please, thought Mommy, let one of these skinnies be kind enough to call paramedics if I nearly die here. Because I might.

"Did you fill out a release form" asked the skinny 25 year old in a Lululemon halter top at the desk.

"Yes," said Mommy. "I've had two c-sections since 2006 so I'm a little out of shape. I have some shoulder pain from carrying my daughter, and I do experience migraines...........

"..........okay just list your injuries on the form and rest in child's pose if it's too much"  said the halter top. Mommy was ready. Let's do this, she thought.

She locked up her valuables in a pretty spa-like dressing room. Oops, my inhaler, she thought. Do I need it? Haven't needed it lately. Mommy decided to  chance it.

Mommy managed just fine. She sweated her way through "hot yoga express" without passing out. No paramedics needed. She struggled through the back bends. Mommy and the backbends squared off in suspect conversation like Jerry and Newman on Seinfeld:

"Hello Mommy."

"Hello Backbend."

"I see you've had a muffin since I saw you last. Or twelve. It's spilling over your capris."

"Well, that's why I'm here, backbend. Now step aside." Mommy reached for her heals in camel pose--too soon! She felt  a wave of nausea and uprighted herself.

"Okay, backbend. you win this time. But I'll be back."

But Mommy did it! She got through the whole class and was fine. She went back for more two days later. She left the second class lightheaded but fine.

"Mommy were you exercising?" asked Lil Buddy when Mommy got home.


"I'm so proud of you, Mommy!"

"Thank you, honey!"

Lil Buddy liked to talk about health and exercise lately. "Mommy I'm exercising so I don't have weak!" he would say while running in a circle around the living room.

"Mommy, please make broccoli for dinner so we can eat healthy vegetables and not have weak!" he said. Mommy obliged, but with suspicion. Later that night, they were locked in a show down over eating the broccoli. Lil Buddy took a bite and gagged and made several other awful sounds. Mommy bit her lip. She was irritated and amused at the same time. At least they tried. Back to baby carrots tomorrow.

Sweet Potata ate most of her pureed broccoli and then requested her favorite dessert: "apple," she said, in the world's tiniest voice. Everyone smiled.

Look at us, thought Mommy, once step closer to ultimate health and wellness.

After dinner, Mommy snuggled up to her babies on the couch and poured over her laptop for yoga coupons. There had to be something out there and Mommy was determined to find it.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Lil Buddy turns Five

Sweet Potata stood at the living room window, stretching to her chubby tiptoes. She had seen her brother stand at the window, too. Waving and saying hi to the neighbors. He said a loud "hi" several times to make sure they heard him. He spoke with a confidence not often found in his personality out in the world, where he might cling to Mommy's leg, stare back into the eyes of just behind the ear of the person talking to him, or give a tiny, indirect wave at Mommy's urging, "If you don't feel like talking today, how about a wave? C'mon Lil Buddy give a wave."

Now Sweet Potata stood there, her hands clutching the windowsill, and she watched the neighbors pass below. "Hiyh," she said in her tiniest voice, "Iye!" she said again, searching for a consonant. She picked up her right hand and opened and closed the palm, "hi!"

Lil Buddy rested on the couch. "Mommy, how old I am?"

"Sweetie, you are five today!"

"It's my birthday today?" asked Lil buddy, sparkling with happiness. He knew that it was.

"Yes, honey. Happy Birthday!"

"I was four yesterday."

"that's right"

"But now I'm five years old!"

"Now you are five!"

"THere's gonna be a celevration?" he asked. Mommy loved how he still mixed his "b's" and "v's"

"Yes baby. At school they will sing to you?"

"Do you know why I'm talking in a different voice today? Do you know why?"

Mommy's head was buried in work.

"Do you know why-do you know why-do you know why?"

"Why what, baby?"

"Do you know why I'm talking in a new voice? Do you know?"

"No, why are you talking in a different voice?" He wasn't, by the way.

"Because I'm five today!" said Lil Buddy. Mommy had to smile at this. He thought of himself as older and changed. Why wouldn't he? He knew that five was a big deal. It sure felt big to Mommy. She sighed and then Sweet Potata, from the window, let out a big, one year old sigh in her tiny, 19 pound body voice.


Lil buddy and Mommy laughed at this.

"come here five year old," said Mommy, "and give me a big squeeze."

"Just a minute," said Lil Buddy, "I'm working on something. I'm very busy at the moment."

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

This is What it Sounds Like...

Mommy drove to daycare from downtown on a Friday. She heard an old Prince song that she loved. "Why do we scream at each other," sang Prince against a backdrop of electric guitars and synthesizers. At almost 6pm, this made Mommy think of the hours ahead of her. She was happy to be on her way to pick up the babies. Friday was Mommy's DAY TO GET THINGS DONE and get things done she had. After a productive day without them, she missed Lil Buddy and Sweet Potata and couldn't wait to squeeze their collective cheeks and hear about their day. She longed for Lil Buddy to hop up and down with sparkly excitement and tales of the day. She couldn't wait for Sweet Potata to wrap her tiny arms around her neck and say "Ahmmy! Ahgghi!"

But Daddy would be home late from work so it might be a rough two hours between now and bedtime. And sure enough, it was.

Lil Buddy and Sweet Potata had had a big dinner at daycare so mommy put out snacks: cheerios on a ribcage level plate for SP; applesauce on a higher table for LB. Mommy scanned the messy apartment and made mental checklists of the things that needed to get done before guests showed up for Sweet Potata's birthday party the next day. Clean living room, organize desk, mop dining room floor, make little sandwhiches.

In her anxious mental notetaking, Mommy did not notice the cheerios, which now covered the dining room floor. She also did not notice Lil Buddy, who was asking her for the third time, "Mommy, what station comes after Rockwell?"

All she noticed, as Lil Buddy got louder and more anxious himself, was Sweet Potata with her tiny fingers stuck in a dresser drawer. Sweet Potata let out a pain cry and Mommy went to pry her loose and comfort her. She was okay, just pinched at the tops of her little digits. Mommy held her and stroked her sweet, hairless head. And then she heard Lil Buddy

"Mommy!" he shouted, "What--Comes--After--Rock--Well?????"

"Not now, Lil Buddy," said Mommy. Lil Buddy let out a blood curdling yelp and kicked Mommy in the shins.

"Lil Buddy! Your sister is hurt! I need to comfort her."

Lil Buddy scratched Mommy's arms. "Stop it now!" said Mommy.

"You stop it!" he yelled.

"I guess you don't want to read books tonight?"

"Nooooooooo!" Another curdler and big semi-fake cry with seemingly real tears. This made Sweet Potata cry in fear. Lil Buddy ran to his room and slammed the door.

After she was able to calm Sweet Potata down and set her down in a bed of soft chewy toys, Mommy went to see about Lil Buddy. She sat on the side of his bed and he wrapped his arms around her neck, putting his wet face on her shoulder.

"Lil Buddy, look at me." Said Mommy. "in my eyes." Lil Buddy tried.

"Take a deep breath." he did so. Mommy hugged him.

"Francisco," said Mommy.

"What?" asked Lil Buddy.

"Francisco. That's what comes after Rockwell. If you're going toward Kimball." said Mommy, naming the train stations that Lil Buddy had quizzed her on. He was a public transit expert.

"But what if you are going to the Loop?" asked a tear-streaked Lil Buddy.

"Well, then I guess it's Western, isn't it?"

"Yes, very good!" Said Lil Buddy.

They had the usual conversation about why it wasn't okay to scratch, hit, or kick; and how Mommy and Daddy would not do that to Lil Buddy. They hugged. Everyone was calm.

"Let's have a bath, okay?" said Mommy. Lil Buddy nodded.

 A small happy voice in the other room cried out, "Dahp dahp dahp! Ahdahhhh!" Mommy and Lil buddy laughed and went to see about Sweet potata.

Mommy thought of the old Prince song and she sighed. This is what it sounds like, she thought, When Doves Cry.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Mommy felt a little like a cartoon that might be labeled "Stuff White People Like." She sat, introverted, in a corner of Starbucks. Not her neighborhood Starbucks, but a much nicer one (down the street from her gym). She drank an iced tea that was made with complicated directions. She nibbled, bird like (she had just been to the gym, afterall) at a chocolate covered graham cracker. She surrounded herself with the latest technology: her laptop (so she could "write") and her smart phone (which was not the latest and rather dumb at times, actually). She checked the time frequently to make sure she would make it in time to her haircut, and then onward to home to relieve the babysitter. Once a week, Mommy sent both kids to Sweet Potata's daycare so she could have time to herself and "get things done." SHe told people she cleaned the house on that day. It was sort of true. Today was a magical second day of childcare for both children and Mommy was determined to enjoy it, even if she did look like a cartoon. Even if she was at Starbucks and not a magical more local locale with questionable wifi and unforturnate iced tea choices.

Thursday, August 11, 2011


Mommy stood waist deep in a Chicago Park District Pool. Lil Buddy stood facing her, standing on the edge. Mommy wanted to swim. Lil Buddy did not.

"No, Mama!" he pleaded. He called her Mama when he felt anxious or needy. She reached for him and he backed away.

"Cmon, Lil Buddy," said Mommy, sweetly. "C'mon," she said in her sweetest, calmest voice, "I got you."
Over and over again she said, "C'mon Lil Buddy, I got you. Now just get in. Put your whole body in."

"Just my toes!"

"No, you promised. Your whole body. We talked about this."

"No. Just toes!"

Mommy leaned in and said, under her breath, "We'll get ice cream! Only if you put your whole body in." The whole pool, filled, as it was, with successful parents, did not need to know about this.

"But I wanna get ice cream!" Whined Lil Buddy at the top of his lungs. Mommy felt stares but didn't turn to look. She stayed focused on her almost five year old boy, so big, but seeming so small and afraid right now. What was it about swimming that made his whole body anxious? She thought back to the previous summers, all spent day after day at this very same neighborhood pool. What was different this year?

"Honey," she told him, "you can touch the bottom here. The water will only come up to your neck. You can touch."

"There is not very much water?"

"No, no there is not."

"I can touch?"

"Yes, yes, you can! Now come on in. Should I help you?"

"No! I'll come in myself!"

"Okay." But Lil Buddy stood there, fidgeting and thinking and over thinking. Mommy stood there too, thinking of the parents she had spoken to recently who admitted their very own children had the same issues. Where were these parents today? Certainly not in this pool. Mommy looked around and saw only happy swimming preschool age children and toddlers. They kicked and splashed and jumped off the side of the pool into their parents' arms.

"He's just always loved the water!" said one mom to another. "We've been coming here since he was a baby!" She gushed.

Well, so have we, thought Mommy.

"Mommy, are they gonna blow the whistle? Is it time to go? Do you think they will blow the whistle? And if they do will they blow the whistle because someone is horsing around?"

"No, Lil Buddy. And don't worry about that, " said Mommy. "Let's just get in the pool while there's still time"

"Are we running out of time? Because they are going to blow the whistle?"

"Lil Buddy!" said Mommy, "Forget the whistle, okay? now let's get in the pool and practice, just like you promised."

"But I don't want to!"

"Why?" Mommy asked, desperate.

"I just want to put my toes in." And lil buddy dropped to his bottom and swung his feet around the edge, dipping his toes in. He giggled with excitement and sparkled in him arms and hands.

"Good!" Said Mommy, "Now, let me help you in," and she reached for him and he backed 20 feet away.

"Lil Buddy, come back here right now!" Mommy demanded.


Mommy sighed and thought of the well meaning Mom at the YMCA who had incurred her secret wrath. After observing Lil Buddy's behavior in swim class, the well meaning concerned mom had asked Mommy, "Does he like baths?" Mommy had to count to ten in five languages before she could answer this gal. But in her head, Mommy answered:

What the fuck do you mean by 'Does he like baths?' He's 5 years old. 

And in her head, Mommy also said this:

Oh, no. He hates baths. We have to chase him around the house just to give him a sponge bath. It's so difficult that sometimes I just let him go for weeks without bathing.

But right then and there, at the Y, all Mommy could say was, "Yes he likes baths. He loves the water."

Mommy wondered what she would do if one of these parents made such a comment. She decided to go with sarcasm if the opportunity arose. It didn't.

The only opportunity that did arise was when the lifeguard blew her whistle to warn someone about horsing around. Lil Buddy sat down and watched the lifeguard move from her post to the offending child. He was distracted. Mommy knew there were only 5 minutes left of parent and tot swim so she picked up his curled up body and pulled him in.

"Noooo!" cried Lil buddy and he kicked and screamed. It was unpleasant and Mommy tried to encourage him to swim, but he wouldn't. "I wanna hold on!" he shouted. So Mommy let him take hold of the pool's edge and he promptly pulled himself out and backed away another 20 feet. Mommy followed this time. The lifeguard blew the whistle.

"Okay, let's dry off," she said, trying to be cool.

"Mommy" said Lil Buddy, "are you so proud of me? I put my whole body in!"

Mommy thought for a moment and said, "yes. But next time, you do it by yourself, okay?"

"Okay," he said. "Can we sit on the steps and watch people swim?"


Tiny Dancers

Lil Buddy sparkled with energy until it seemed like his trembling, 5 year old body might burst with happiness. He narrowed his focus and went into his own world,  dancing his very own exuberant preschool trance dance. He kicked his feet happily up and down and shimmied his arms by his sides, giving his dance a decidedly, early 60s, American bandstand look. He folded his arms and swung his hips side to side, bobbing his head. Finally, he opened up his arms and legs into a giant X shape to prepare for his latest, favorite move. "I'm 'pocketing,'" he said, as he slapped his swinging hips on each side.

Sweet Potata had been taking all this in as she made her way around the room, but now she stopped, mid-crawl, to look up at her brother and smile. There on all fours she began to nod her head to the rhythm of her big brother's dance.

"Look Mommy!" said Lil Buddy. "Sweet Potato and I are exercising! We are getting in shape!"

"I see you," I said. "I love your dance moves."

"Because if I do not exercise I will not be healthy?"

"Yes, dear," I answered. Lil Buddy had been obsessed with health and exercise.

"And I will be so tired?"

"Yes, you will not have enough energy," I said, although I wasn't sure this was possible.

"And my muscles will get all drongly?" He asked. Daddy and I smiled at each other from across the room. "Drongly" was by far, one of our favorite Lil Buddy words. It was an adjective used to describe everything from fireworks, to old spaghetti, to well loved books. It seemed to mean a combination of old, tired, well worn, and dingy. It was a highly useful word so we encouraged it.

"yes," I said, "your muscles will get drongly."

Lil Buddy heaved a heavy sigh and flopped onto his giant hedgehog pillows. "I'm tired, " he said.

"Eeeayah! Buhdapp!" said Sweet Potata, shaking a tiny, 11 month old fist in the air. Her little vocal outburst was so loud and funny that we all burst into giggles. Lil Buddy's giggles bubbled into snorts and he rolled around on the floor.

Sweet Potata just slid back onto her baby haunches and stared at us. It was as if she was saying "What's so damn funny?"

So I scooped her up and nibbled her cheeks, which made her giggle like the rest of us.